Music Review: SCANDINAVIAN METAL PRAISE – Scandinavian Metal Praise

Leave a comment

scandinavian metal praiseSCANDINAVIAN METAL PRAISE
Scandinavian Metal Praise
Metal Praise Records
2008

As a long-time disciple of Christ Jesus, and an even longer \,,/METALHEAD\,,/, I do tend to gravitate towards praise and worship song styles that feature the scientifically proven music of AWESOME. Your standard Contemporary Worship stylings of Casting Crowns, Chris Tomlin or whatever version of Hillsong is big this month just isn’t going to cut it for your Uncle NecRo. As a matter of fact, I have a specific mix of METAL-centric praise and worship type songs on my phone, culled and cherry-picked from my extensive collection to listen to during the worship band time every Sunday. I like to pretend the worship team really is playing Mortification’s “The Majestic Infiltration Of Order”.

Anyway, in 2008, the Metal World was blessed with the release of an album by a group going by the name Scandinavian Metal Prais.e Hailing from Finland, the members of this group chose to remain anonymous, and released a self-titled collection of worship choruses done cast in METAL. So, of course this would become part of my music vault. Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

To be fair, when I think of Scandinavian metal, I tend to think of epic power metal, or at least black metal. Technical melodic death metal as well. I would be remiss to not admit that I would expect at least some power metal influence going on before popping this into the media player to give it a few listens. Of course, as per usual concerning my preconceived assumptions, Scandinavian Metal Praise proved me to be a bit off. Okay, more than just a bit off, really.

The sound on Scandinavian Metal Praise features some very heavy and crunchy guitar riffs and thick rhythms that are more mid-paced hard rocking metal, with the guitar riffs themselves keeping things basic, yet still given some room to stretch out with the technical playing, incorporating bits of grunge and Djent in the mix at times, and achieving some fantastic technical styles and solos going. The singer is fantastic, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe she was holding back, coming close but not quite hitting things out of the park. She is very much capable of handing these songs, though, so don’t think this is a major criticism.

The album starts with “Great Is Power”, which has a good, heavy crunchy guitar riff and hook, and has an interesting Djent bridge. “When The Spirit Of The Lord”, one of my favorite praise choruses, has a faster technical riff, befitting this particular song. Of course, when I first heard the song, it was by way of the Petra version on their first Petra Praise release. This version here has a much more textured feel to it. “Praise Adonai” has a moody, almost grunge feel to the music, while “Worthy Is The Lamb” is a bit more commercial sounding, though still heavy. “Wonderful God” leans more towards the power metal side of things, with a fast guitar riff opening and maintaining a thick, crunchy hook throughout. “Take Me In” is a bit darker, featuring a mix of keyboards and guitars that brings out the emotional qualities of the song. Again, this is another song I first heard way back on the Petra Praise release. This one’s heavier, as you may have gathered. “We Sing Alleluia” features a very stark riff, with traditional keys and melody infusing the song; “Holy King” has a good power riff and is more somber; and “Laulu Suomelle” ends the album on an upbeat note, with a good technical and heavy riff and a bit of a faster pace. It’s also sung in the band’s native Finnish, in case you were wondering. I’m fairly certain you weren’t, but I do like to throw in useless facts that no one asked about on these things.

Overall, Scandinavian Metal Praise is a good, solid praise and worship album with some great renditions of the classics I grew to love while growing up in my faith. This is way better than those lame Maranatha! praise and worship releases that we were inundated with back in the 1990s. Highly recommended.

Advertisements

Music Review: BELIEVER – Transhuman

Leave a comment

believer - transhumanBELIEVER
Transhuman
Metal Blade
2011

Two years after the release of Believer’s comeback album Gabriel, the band released the followup Transhuman. There was much speculation as to if Transhuman would be a return to their progressive thrash roots. It wasn’t, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Going into this, I rather figured that Transhuman would follow down the path started with Gabriel. Believer was always about musical progression over style; I would have been surprised if they had released something like their first three releases.

First, I’d like to point out that the album cover art is fantastic. The eerie model and negative space seem perfectly fitting for the music contained inside. And speaking of the music (flawless segway, there), I have to say that, generally speaking, Transhuman is probably the darkest album I’ve heard coming from these guys. While there are some spots where the classic sounding Believer comes through, like on “Clean Room” and “Ego Machine”, for the most part the songs on this album are more mid-paced, incorporating more of the dark industrial flavors here with the progressive style. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good guitar riffs on the songs, along with some good melodies and musical textures. “Lie Awake” starts off the album that way, giving an idea of the journey you’re going to be taking with this release. “GUT”, “Multiverse”, “End Of Infinity” and “Transfiguration” continue with the dark progressive metal style; “Currents” is more of an ambient, dark EBM spacy instrumental that has a good guitar riff; “Traveler” continues with the dark, mid-paced progressive route, while “Being No One” features a good thrashy riff and a solid hook, while retaining the dark progressive quality, while “Entanglement” and “Mindsteps” end the album like it began: dark, moody and epic sounding.

Overall, Transhuman is an album that requires more than just a couple of spins for everything to really kick in. But, I’ve found that it really does prove itself to be a good quality album, just not in the classic Believer vein. Transhuman is more cerebral, both musically and lyrically, and while it may not be the band’s masterpiece, it’s definitely worth more than just a couple of cursory listens. Recommended.

Music Review: STRYPER – God Damn Evil

3 Comments

stryper - god damn evilSTRYPER
God Damn Evil
Frontiers Music
2018

So, here we are now, with a new Stryper album. I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem all that long ago when they released Fallen. Or when I caught them on the To Hell With The Devil 30th Anniversary Tour (I’m wearing that tour shirt right now, actually…it wasn’t planned, I swear). Now, not only do we have a new Stryper album, but a new member handling bass duties (again), and what seems to be a new dynamic for the music. Also, we have the first Stryper album to be banned from being sold at Walmart. Being banned from Christian bookstores? *Yawn* Old hat. Being banned from Walmart? This is why Stryper is still awesome, folks.

Part of the anticipation of waiting for this release was mostly due to the incredible explosion of controversy within the Christian rock and metal online communities when the title was announced. If you know your Uncle NecRo, then it’ll come as no surprise that I was behind the title God Damn Evil 100%, as I understood what they were going for, and I am rather amused by how easily we Christians can get at the drop of the proverbial hat. Don’t get me started, otherwise this review will turn into a rant that will engulf several pages. But, enough of that. Let’s get to the music, shall we?

After taking in the very, very awesome METAL cover art, we begin with the first cut, “Take It To The Cross”, which has a nice atmospheric build-up to a heavy groove riff hook. It’s heavy, but then at the chorus, the speed is shifted to light speed, and it’s there that I realized Stryper was spreading their creative wings and trying something different with the music, much like on Against The Law back in the day. The song is…interesting. When I purchased the prerelease, I was allowed to download “Take It To The Cross”, which I shall be honest, I wasn’t completely convinced by. Fortunately, there are ten more songs on here, and this first cut doesn’t fully represent how things are.

While there are songs on God Damn Evil that feature the classic Stryper style, like on “Lost”, “You Don’t Even Know Me”, and “Beautiful”, the overall dynamic on here seems a bit heavier, a bit darker, with some choice mid-paced riffs and hooks going, like on “Sorry”, “The Valley” (which has a very Ronny James Dio-era Black Sabbath feel to it), and “Own Up”. The title track itself has a good late-80s, early-90s AC/DC style riff going, while achieving a good bluesy groove on “Sea Of Thieves”. We have a kind of !POWER BALLAD ALERT! with “Can’t Live Without Your Love”, but it’s not sappy, like Stryper has been known to do; it has a good crunchy riff, and it really doesn’t break the flow of the album. The final song, “The Devil Doesn’t Live Here”, ends things with a fun and infectious metal boogie.

Overall, I realize that reactions to the music on God Damn Evil have been mixed (not counting the ones that only focus on the album title, here…this is about the music), but since this is my review on my personal blog (and whoever might link to this), I’m going to come out and say that the album as a whole is fantastic. It’s better than I would have expected, with the variety and styles playing, yet keeping things unmistakably Stryper. My advice is to ignore knee-jerk reactions, and give this a listen. I look forward to your collective rebuke emails.

Music Review: DELIVERANCE – The Subversive Kind

1 Comment

deliverance - the subversive kindDELIVERANCE
The Subversive Kind
Roxx Records / 3 Frogz Records
2018

So, it looks like I’m going to have to do a retraction on my review of Hear What I Say!, in which I mentioned that Jimmy P. Brown II declared it the final Deliverance album. This wasn’t hearsay (no pun intended); I listened to him say it on the As The Story Grows podcast back in 2015. I was fine with Hear What I Say! being the final chapter in the Deliverance saga — Jimmy had other musical projects, not to mention a family to focus on. But, it looks like the fans have once again convinced him to come out of retirement and record a new Deliverance album. Not that I’m complaining, mind you…it’s just that they ruined a perfectly good review.

I kid, I kid. Now, on to the album review…

For months leading up to the release of The Subversive Kind, the hype was that this was a return to the speed metal days. This was going to be the heaviest “D” album evar!!1! Yeah, okay. I wasn’t going to buy into anything until I had the album and was listening to it to make that kind of proclamation. Then those who got their pre-releases because they contributed to the funding were responding very enthusiastically, and my anticipation grew a bit. Then the lyric video for “The Black Hand” was released, and suddenly I’m wishing that the official release date wasn’t over a month away for me to download the pre-release I purchased from Amazon. Finally, the day has arrived, and I’ve been listening to it several times now. Was that wait worth the hype?

Sure.

First thing to point out — besides the album cover being rather awesome-looking, there — is that the overall length of the album is only 31 minutes long. Which may sound like we’ve been short-changed, but us old-school MetalHeads (TM) know that this is actually a bit longer than the standard Slayer album in the 1980s. We knew how to cram an hour’s worth of METAL into half-an-hour back then, let me tell you.

It’s the same here with The Subversive Kind: From the opening track “Bring ‘Em Down”, we’re welcomed with a tight and heavy riff that breaks into a fast-paced bridge and an infectious solo. And that is what we get with the entirety of the album — heavy, tight riffs and hooks, thrash rhythms making for some of the tastiest Deliverance cuts that recall the heavier bits from Here What I Say!.

The question still remains, though: Is The Subversive Kind a return to the classic thrash and speed metal days of the first three releases? Well, no. Not really. The thing to remember about Deliverance releases is that each album has their own distinct personality; the same goes with The Subversive Kind. It sticks to the speed and thrash, but infuses the songs with a modern take that Jimmy is really good with. Each song has its own distinct awesomeness to them, and given the top-notch production, makes this a good, solid release front-to-back.

Of course, I bought my copy as a download from Amazon. There are also the requisite CD and limited edition vinyl releases for you physical media types. Regardless of your preference, The Subversive Kind is another fantastic METAL release from Deliverance. I recommend you check it out if for some reason you haven’t as of yet.

Music Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS – Southern Extremities

Leave a comment

southern extremitiesVARIOUS ARTISTS
Southern Extremities: Brasilian Metal Compilation
Rowe Productions
2001

Steve Rowe’s Rowe Productions label, over the years, has done much to help expose metal bands and artists from around the entire globe, through the release of the compilations that featured country and continental themes with the bands and artists chosen for them. It’s a pity that these compilations stopped after just a handful of them, as it would have been nifty to have every country and continent eventually represented on the label releases. As it stands, the last of these compilation series that Rowe Productions has released seems to be this particular one, Southern Extremities.

Focusing on the country of Brazil (which is part of the South American continent, in case you’re not up on your geography), this comp features four cuts each from three bands: Vollig Heilig (“Running Time”, “Looking For The Light”, “Don’t Stop The Music”, and “Revenge”, from their Looking For The Light release), Stauros (“Seaquake”, “The First Mile”, “Vital Blood” and “Dance Of The Seeds” from their Seaquake release), and Light Hammer (“Holy Wings”, “The Bright You’ll Know”, “Wake Up” and “Why Were You Born?”, from the Holy Wings demo). The band Vollig Heilig, I am pedantically obligated to point out, changed their name to Belica, and re-released Looking For The Light under that name a year after the original release. There, that’s something you know, now. And you can’t un-know it. Maniacal laughter.

On the plus side, Southern Extremities has the entirety of Light Hammer’s ultra-rare Holy Wings demo, albeit the tracks being out-of-sequence on here. Plus, the metal featured on here is pretty good, sticking with the general power metal style on each of the three entries on the band list. Which kind of brings me to my primary gripe about this compilation: Why just stick to power metal? With the previous compilations, there was a smorgasbord–a metaphorical cornucopia, if you will–of various metal styles, not just one. I know for a fact that Brazil (not to mention the entirety of South America in general) is one of the most fertile breeding grounds of all kinds of metal genres going — death metal, black metal, punk, hardcore, industrial…why just power metal? I feel a great opportunity to school us American metalheads on Brazilian metal beyond just Sepultura was sorely missed.

Personally, the reason I hold on to this compilation is because of the Light Hammer demo’s inclusion. As a cross-section of the Brazilian metal scene, you would do better by seeking out the Kingdom Of Metal Land compilations for a better variety.

Music Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS – Hard And Heavy From Down Under

Leave a comment

hard and heavy from down underVARIOUS ARTISTS
Hard And Heavy From Down Under
Rugged Records / Rowe Productions
1996

So, since I finished up the reviews of the remaining Australian Metal Compilation releases, I felt it was appropriate to do a review of the American release that featured cuts from Australian metal bands, Hard And Heavy From Down Under. I’ve only seen this CD once, at a small family owned Christian bookstore tucked away inside one of the malls in Omaha, Nebraska back in the mid-1990s, within their paltry “Rock” section of the music wall. Hardly any information as to the history behind this release can be found, although there are entries on the standard music archive sites that I use for research.

Hard And Heavy From Down Under was essentially a collaboration between Rowe Productions, which released the original Australian Metal Compilations, and Rugged Records, which started up as a label in the early to mid-1990s as a place for old 80s metal bands to retire to, originally. Then it turned into yet another alternative type label, but that’s for a different rant. Anyway, from what I could gather, this was released here in America as an easier way for us Yank metalheads to check out the bands on the Rowe Production label from Australia, without paying exhuberant shipping prices.

The compilation starts with a cut from Mortification, “Peace In The Galaxy”, which first appeared on the EnVision EvAngeline release. Interesting way to kick things off. Next is two cuts from the band Cry Mercy, “Time To Go” and “D. A. M.”, both from their self-titled release. Then, it’s some death metal goodness from Metanoia — “Acute Obliteration” and “Dimensions Of Life” — both from the In Darkness Or In Light release. Then it’s the three-part Plague suite by Screams Of Chaos (“Fighting For Breath”, “The New World” and “Destroy The Plague”), which was lifted from the second Australian Metal Compilation release, Raise The Dead. But, that’s not all this compilation lifted from that release, as there are two cuts from Embodiment that were found only on the Raise The Dead compilation (“Loophole”, “Incorporate Body”). And we’re not done pilfering from the Australian Metal Compilation series, as these are followed by a couple of cuts from the hardcore band Callous that appeared on the third Australian Metal Compilation (“Hate” and “The Mind That Rots”), and then two cuts from Ethereal Scourge that appeared on the second Australian Metal Compilation (“Death Of Hades” and “Tombthroat”).

Back in the day, when I first encountered this CD, I held off purchasing it because, save for the two Cry Mercy cuts, I already had all the songs on here. And even though I didn’t have the two Cry Mercy songs, I did have one, “Shut Up And Listen”, from the first Australian Metal Compilation. I was good. Even now, I just picked it up as a curiosity. To me, this wasn’t that big of a deal, as I mentioned, I already had everything this sampler featured. But, if you’re not really up on the global Metal community, here’s a good crosscut of what used to be on the Rowe Productions label back in the day. Worth a look, if you can find one at a good discounted price somewhere.

Music Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS – Australian Metal Compilation: Godspeed

2 Comments

australian metal compilation - godspeedVARIOUS ARTISTS
Australian Metal Compilation: Godspeed
Rowe Productions
1994

Back in 1994, Steve Rowe — the founder of the band Mortification — started up his own indie label named Rowe Productions, as a means to help promote the underground Christian metal bands, not only in Australia, but all over the world. As such, the first release on the fledgling label was a rather ambitious compilation of Australian metal bands called Godspeed.

I purchased my copy back in 1997, at a much-missed record shop that specialized in Christian metal. I figured it was time to get about doing a proper review for this one, as I’ve already reviewed the second in the compilation series. Here goes, then…

Cry Mercy – “Shut Up And Listen”
Decent groove metal tune, good hook; this one seems slightly different than the version that appeared on their self-titled release…

Mortification – “Time Crusaders”
This is the studio version of the song that originally first appeared on the Live Planetarium release. This is the first time the studio version showed up, as it wasn’t included on the Blood World release, like “Symbiosis” did, for some reason. Anyway, good cut regardless…

Nu Humans – “Shattered”
Decent heavy metal cut, good riff, bit tinny on the production, but listenable…

Discarnated – “William Melancholy”
Melodic death metal with a pretty good groove and some doomy bits hither an yon, good cut…

Doxology – “Fight”
Melodic heavy metal with a good riff and decent, if muddled, production…

Deracination – “Fourth Dimension”
Rather good straight-forward death metal tune, from their four-song demo that came out after the full-length. You know, it’s really high time that and the four-song demo get the remaster/re-release treatment. But, I digress…

Harbinger – “The End Is Near”
good NWOBHM riff going, builds up to a rather good straight heavy metal cut…

Krioni – “Black”
Melodic metal cut, female vocals, bit of a poppish veneer to it. Catchy hooks, not too bad for what it is…

Screams Of Chaos – “Eyes Of Chaos”
Interesting industrial cover of the Light Force song. This was my first exposure to Screams Of Chaos, by the way, one of the better finds to grace my collection…

Beheadoth – “Mine Heart Doth Beseech Thee (O Master)”
This cut is actually an early incarnation of the better-known Black Metal project Horde. This song is in keeping with the blistering, face melting second wave Black Metal sound, and is one of the best cuts on this compilation…

Rockin’ Rabbies – “Be Alert”
Representing the quirky hardcore punk genre is Rockin’ Rabbies. The sound is befitting the name, really, as it’s straight forward and snotty…

Embodyment – “Dishallowent Grounds”
Not to be confused with the American post-hardcore band Embodyment, this Australian Embodyment (they would go on to change the “y” to an “i” later) features a doomy death metal cut that is pretty good…

Justice – “Proven Infallible”
Straight-forward hard rock cut, good hook and riff going, but rather bland in the execution…

Metanoia – “Ripped In Two”
Really good Death Metal cut, originally from the Screaming Fetus demo; this also was my first exposure to this great Death Metal band, who fortunately didn’t just release one full-length like Deracination and Discarnated did…

Ignite – “Sanctuary”
Now, this is a good doom metal cut, with a raw and heavy groove and baritone vocals…

Thrash Puppies – “Fastest Song In The World”
Crossover thrash, again with the interesting name choices. This one is decent, if a little standard, if you get what I’m saying, here…

Rosanna’s Raiders – “Mr. Magic”
And ending the compilation with something of a wet splat is this early cut from Rosanna’s Raiders, which is an odd addition to the collection, as the band was more commercial rock than actual metal, per se. Regardless, kind of a weak cut to go out on…

So, here we are. For a compilation, it’s a pretty decent collection, running a good portion of the Metal spectrum with the styles and genres represented on here. For the most part, there’s nothing too bad with the production quality with each song, as I think Steve just took the songs directly from the demos and didn’t do much tweaking. But, I could be wrong about that. Overall, the Godspeed collection is something to get for the fact that there are some good rare cuts on here, including the first instance of Mortification’s “Time Crusaders” studio cut, with only a couple of cuts I’d skip over.

Older Entries